Interview with the interior designer Alison Bethell-Collins
Her hometown is Windsor, England, but she studied Art & Design in Florence before working for a short time in London. She then went to live in Bali for a year, which is an inspirational place and came to live in Marbella in 1979. She loves Marbella – it has been her home for 40 years! She thinks that the designers are living in Marbella are so lucky, in this special place where the light is kind and the atmosphere is creative, and the clients are more daring than they would be at home. She is the interior designer Alison Bethell-Collins and today we spoke with her.
+ On your website, you state the following:” I enjoy working closely with my clients, sometimes for over a year.” What is the key to creating the perfect home for your clients?
IMAGINE * CONSULT * DESIGN * LIVE! These are the 4 stages to creating a wonderful home.
Obviously, one must listen carefully to the client´s likes and dislikes, and how they want to use each room. For me, great design is producing a home, not a show house – where the client wakes up on a Sunday morning and feels as though they have been there for years. Yes of course, colour, symmetry and eclectic artworks are also important, but better still, invite your friends round for a great meal and enjoy living in it!
+ Eclecticism is a fundamental element in your projects. Could you demonstrate an example?
Yes, I love finding slightly crazy or wacky pieces, and mixing them into a home wherever possible. This depends very much upon the style and size of the space.
Recently, I have been lucky enough to work on a huge house with 5 metre ceilings, and this has allowed me to include some amazing pieces from BOCA DO LOBO, a Portuguese company, which most designers will have heard of by now. For example, a sepia design cabinet or a massively oversized mirror.
+ According to your website, you have a qualified team to accompany a project from start to finish. How are the professionals you are working with capable of doing this?
I work very closely with several architects, most especially Alberto Rodriguez, and we start with plans followed by complete 3D and incredibly high-quality renders, showing the clients how I envisage the interior of their home. From there, I work with the clients painstakingly to provide any changes they may want.
I have an extensive knowledge of exactly what furniture and fabrics are on the market, as it is something I pride myself on. Over 30 years in the business, and always seeking new items, not just settling for items I have used before. I really do read each and every catalogue and scour projects throughout the world to keep up to date. My team of creative joiners, bespoke painters and creative curtain makers and upholsterers are second to none and we have worked together on projects worldwide. I have used the same team for 30 years as they also push the boundaries creatively each year and help me to achieve the final goals without worrying about the quality.
+ What are your signature projects? Could you give us an example?
My most recent project has been the most creatively rewarding, as it was a 200-year-old industrial building which we turned into a private residence. Most especially, the clients love interesting Art- Deco style and because the house is so large, we could go a bit crazy! Every room in the house has unusual pieces and surprises in it and I can honestly say there is nothing else like it on the coast. As I said at the beginning, some projects take over a year – this one took 3 years!
+ What are the differences between decorating a London residence and a Marbella villa?
Firstly, the light, and of course the gardens and outdoor areas! Years ago, most homes here were for holidays only, but as Marbella has matured in terms of what it offers to families from all over the world who now live here, so the homes have evolved into principal residences. This is obviously much more interesting for designers. In London the tastes are more somber, with palettes of dark grey and elegant anthracite, whereas in the full sunshine of the Mediterranean, colour becomes a vital part of any decoration.
+ On what projects are you currently working?
I am presently starting a design for a small hotel which is a very exciting project for me.
I am also designing the interior of an ultra-modern home in Marbella.
Apart from that, I am completely renovating 2 private houses from top to bottom, and where I will also Project Manage the building and complete restoration. I love this as one day I am on site in dirty boots, and the next, I am out choosing beautiful silks- never a dull day!! I do get a bit bored sitting at a desk and so this suits me perfectly.
I am also designing my own capsule collection of furniture to launch in a few months’ time.
+ Could you tell us about a project where you have worked with TINO Natural Stone?
Yes, my first job with Tino was back in 1999, a very large mansion in La Reserva de la Quinta, where they used the “Amarillo Parador” with a special hand-finished texture that only TINO can do, throughout the house.
More recently, I restored a finca, using TINO for all marbles, bathrooms, flooring and fireplaces.
My most recent project, which was 3 years from start to finish, I worked very closely with Tino from the beginning. In the house there is an atrium of about 50 metres long, and together with Tino we created a sunburst design in black and white marble with details of golden onyx, which ended up creating a fabulous impact. Unfortunately, it is not quite finished at this time so only a detail is included here.
Also, a bathroom where we had seen a picture in an old magazine of a solid marble bath, sinks and floor with a small black and white design, and painstakingly managed to recreate it, using “Crema Valencia” marble which is a rich honey colour.
+ What is the reason why you have used natural stone in some of your works?
I love natural stone. It has a tactile quality, that makes you want to stroke it and feel the power of the nature that created it, and yet it also has a coolness in this hot climate which is second to none. I love the slight imperfections or crystals that gleam and give depth, as well as the veins that are formed over millions of years. It is a noble element.
+ Why did you choose TINO?
Because firstly, Tino is a worldwide name with an excellent reputation. Secondly the showroom in Marbella is fantastic for clients to visit and the team on hand will explain everything carefully and draw every tiny detail on the plans ready for expert installation. I love working with true professionals who know their job and leave me quietly confident to complete my part in the project!
Brilliant project! I love the interview and the high quality materials coupled with the high quality images have a real impact on the viewer! Well done Ali!!!!
Thanks for the comment, Susan!